Maintaining focus when writing is often a huge challenge for me. There are so many distractions – Facebook, Twitter, checking email, writing another blog post, to name a few. I have had to devise a few tactics to keep me focused on writing and the task at hand. Here are my top three techniques for maintaining focus when writing my dissertation.

  1. Strict Workflow – this handy little tool works with the Chrome Browsers. You download it and a little tomato appears in your toolbar. Then, anytime you want to focus you click on the tomato and it blocks you from visiting certain websites. It comes with a preset list including Facebook, Youtube, and other common distractors. You can change the list and add or delete any site you want. The default is to work for 25 minutes with a 5 minute break, but you can change that too. The only way to get access to those sites while the timer is running it to restart your computer, and who wants to bother with that?
  2. Focus @ Will – If you like playing background music while you work, this site is awesome. As the site states, “Mainstream music lowers comprehension and creates distraction because it is designed to connect with you intellectually and emotionally.” Good point. At Focus @ Will they actually designed music in partnership with neuroscientists to help you focus. How cool is that?! It’s free for 30 days then requires a small subscription fee. If you want an intense, energetic music try the ADHD channel. If you are looking for something more soothing go with Water. Like the background noise of coffee shops? That’s an option too. Give it a try. I’m still in my free trial, but have found it helpful.
  3. Stand up Our bodies were not designed to sit all day, yet we do it all the time. Research is now showing the incredible dangers of sitting all day including increased mortality, cancer, and hospitalizations, even when you exercise. Here is a meta-analysis study in the Annals of Internal Medicine. To be honest, this wasn’t my motivation. I just knew I felt bad when I sat all day. My back gets sore, I feel tired and sluggish, and my motivation and focus drop. So, I looked into buying a stand-up desk.  I was shocked at the $1,000+ price tag. New desk or tuition payment? Next option – DIY.  I found great directions for a steel pipe desk. I already had a desk top from IKEA, so I took a trip to Home Depot and within a day had myself a new desk. Mine doesn’t change heights like the fancy $1,000 ones, but I do have a high chair/stool from IKEA that allows me to switch from sitting and standing. I think the combination is ideal. It keeps my energy up all day, helps me focus, and it’s easy to step aside to do a couple burpees if I need to move a bit. If you want to skip the DIY, IKEA now makes a more economical stand/sit desk. If you aren’t sure if you want to commit to a new desk and want to just try out standing while you work, then get a sturdy cardboard box, milk crate, or pile of books and put your laptop on top of them. Try it out for a couple of days. Play with the height to get it just right. If you like it, take the plunge and watch your energy soar!

These are three tools I use to stay focused while writing. Give them a try and let us know how they work for you. Leave a note in the comments with your feedback. Happy writing!